He had a weakness. One which he guessed may be quite embarrassing should his workmates discover it. However, he was not ashamed of it, because he saw no reason to be. It was perhaps quite a contraction in regards to who he was and to his profession that he should indulge himself in such fantasies, and fantasy, was exactly what it was.
Bill Simmons was 36, worked on a building site, and lived a bachelor life in a bedsit. He was quite overweight, completely bald through choice, and had a tattoo of a spider-web across his right shoulder. His work colleagues were similar. Every Friday after work they would go the local pub and binge drink and talk loudly about anything and everything, punctuated every few seconds by a loud, drunken laugh. Basically, they were normal, but when Bill went home, he would indulge in his passion, a passion which he had to admit was really an obsession.
Three years ago, he had found himself in a Sunday morning market, and was rifling through a box of second-hand books when he came across a book entitled: ‘Valley of chains’. The cover featured a dragon in chain-mail, flying with a rider on its back between two mountain peaks.
It was only thirty pence, so he bought it, and loved every word of it. It fuelled his interest in fantasy, as it was sheer escapism from the harsh reality of the building site. When he only had a few pages left, he had found himself in a side road that he had never noticed before in his local town centre. There was only one shop there, a place called ‘Other Realms’, which was basically a shop which sold items of fantasy such as boardgames and figurines, etc.
He found himself wandering around it, and thought about getting another book when he came across the board games section. He had visited the town centre to sort out a credit card related enquiry at his bank, so had not expected to find this place, so therefore had not much money on him. One board game caught his attention, entitled ‘King Kyruss’, the cover of which simply featured and ornate and expensive looking throne, made of gold and gemstones, carved with snakes and dragons and tigers. It was empty. No king sat there, and upon reading a brief on the back, he found that the object of the game was to find the king and restore him to the throne.
Intrigued, he also discovered that the price of it exactly matched the amount of money he had in his pocket, so without hesitation, he purchased it, hoping that nobody he knew would see him on his way home with it.
The game became a fascination for him, turning slowly into an obsession which has lasted so far for two years. The board featured six squares, each depicting a different realm. One was featured on a remote planet. One was based in an underwater kingdom, and the others were in different fantasy kingdoms. They were connected by smaller, ladder-like squares, where he used a plastic gold coin as a counter, rolling dice to determine which realm he would search for the king in. Each realm had its own set of cards, a hundred in each, and he had to be careful not to look at them outside of playing the game, because one card simply read: ‘Open the chest’, which meant exactly that.
A little wooden chest with a little wooden key was in the centre of the board, and Bill knew that if he got that card, he would find the king. Whatever was in the chest would point to the final card, which he guessed would feature a picture of the king on the throne.
That would be it then, game over. Two years of searching. Round and round the board he would go, reading the cards the dice told him to read, fighting Goblins and riding dragons. Each card featured a picture related to the realm, and information regarding what was happening at that point, and his progress, but the dice had never let him land on a number that would take him to the chest, that was, until now. It had gone midnight, and he was up for work early in the morning.
Nothing moved outside. The bedsit was silent, and a lamp on a nearby table illuminated the words of the card he held: ‘Open the chest’. This was it, he’d found the king. He was hesitant, yet exited, even nervous, but he didn’t know why. He also didn’t know why he would wait until tomorrow evening. He was tired now, so would be thinking straight when he opened the chest. He went to bed that night as exited as a little boy on Christmas eve, spending an exited, restless night in the knowledge that he’d finally cracked the game.
The following day, Bill’s workmates noticed a considerable change in him. He seemed jittery, unable to concentrate on his work, and less communicative than normal. He disappeared an hour before he was due to leave, unable to wait any longer, leaving his superiors and work mates looking around the site for him.
When he got to his bedsit, he closed the door behind him and leaned back against it, staring down at the board in the middle of the room, and at the chest in the middle of that. He still wore his hardhat as he slowly approached. Kneeling down, his trembling hand reached for the small key that had been laid before the chest. He clutched the chest get a better grip, but found that it wouldn’t move. Strange, he thought, he didn’t remember gluing it down.
He slid the key into the lock and turned. His excitement grew even further in intensity when he heard a click, and the chest slowly opened of its own accord. When it began to open, a blue tinged light beamed out, and when it had opened fully it spread out to encompass the whole room, and Bill no longer felt the floor beneath him, he was floating towards the chest, as though being pulled by gravity. The light was bright but not blinding. His whole essence and being was taken into the chest, which slowly began to close, the light going with it until there was once again, a silent bedsit, the board game still there, still set out, alongside which there was a yellow hardhat.
When Bill’s vision returned, he found he was sitting down, looking out of a glassless window, at a yellow and red sky. He found that he was also in a grand hall, seated upon a throne, wearing a jewel encrusted crown.